‘I was a fairly well-adjusted kid ... had a rather enjoyable childhood, up until these sorts of things happened ... It was just bizarre, absolutely bizarre behaviour.’
In the mid 1970s, as a teenaged student at a state high school in Brisbane, Erich and a small group of other boys went camping with a teacher, Mathias Rasker. The morning after arriving at the campsite, Rasker came out of his tent naked. ‘He didn’t say a thing, didn’t say a thing. He was just wandering around. Parading around. Bizarre. Creepy.’
Rasker was also aroused and Erich recalled the teacher rubbing his erection against him and pushing it into some of the other boys’ faces.
For the two nights of the camp, Rasker shared a tent with one of the students, Simon Nugand. ‘I reckon he groomed Nugand’, Erich said.
And he believes another boy, Colin Wenley, was in the tent as well. ‘I remember hearing … the noises were disgusting ... sexual.’
In a statement Erich provided to the Royal Commission he wrote that, on the way home from the camp, Rasker offered the boys money to take off their clothes.
When they got back, Erich and the others never spoke about the abuse. Years later, they were asked by police why they hadn’t told anyone.
‘And the two [other] boys who were on the camp, they said, “Well, our dad … would have killed him”. And I think my dad … might have done the same. So, there was a sort of cloak of silence because we didn’t want our dads, our parents, to get in trouble for what they might have done.’
After leaving school Erich began a successful career. He often drank and used marijuana, but said he didn’t realise at the time he was self-medicating.
After a near-death experience in the mid 2000s, Erich decided he had to deal with the ‘unresolved issues’ of the sexual abuse. He reported Rasker to the ethical standards branch of the Queensland education department and discovered the man had been convicted of child sex offences about 10 years earlier.
He was also told that Rasker had taken his own life. ‘It put me off the trail, basically, and I was left to just deal with it my own best way ... I didn’t get any counselling from anyone.’
Erich never heard any more about his report and believes it was never passed on to the police. ‘I’m thinking, “Where did this go? Why wasn’t that done?” … I just can’t fathom that.’
Over the next few years he had ‘real trouble’ dealing with the impacts of the abuse. He was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression and, more recently, a personality disorder. He has also admitted himself to mental health facilities after having thoughts of suicide.
In the mid 2010s, when Erich decided to go to the police himself, he was told that Rasker was, in fact, still alive. He immediately pressed charges.
He also gave police the names of the other boys who had been on the camp, which led to Colin Wenley pressing charges, too.
Erich has always wondered why the education department originally told him that the teacher was dead.
‘I feel totally betrayed by all of this and misled. I’m a person who has suffered immensely, because of this development, as a human being and it’s dogged me through my whole life ... You have all these problems that are associated with it. Here I am, a 50-something man really trying my best to get back on my feet.’
Erich spoke too of what he called ‘survivor guilt’, feeling that he should have reported Rasker much earlier.
He’d like to see systems in place which properly deal with complaints of child sexual abuse, ‘so people are not left in the wilderness’. He also recommended more focus on counselling, and better communication between the agencies that deal with abuse: ‘police, education department or whichever institution’.
For years Erich has been concerned that some of what Rasker did and a number of other offences against children were not regarded as crimes in the mid-1970s. He wants a standard criminal code across all states and territories, ‘to deal with historical inadequacies in the law’, so child sex offenders can be charged with those offences.
He’s written to senior members of the Queensland government about it, so far without success. But it’s something he passionately believes in, and is not ready to give up.
When Erich came to the Royal Commission, Mathias Rasker was due to appear in court in a couple of months. ‘I’m going to eyeball him … That’s been my whole thing, I wanted him off the streets, because I know what he’s capable of …
‘I’d like to see charges, I’d liked to see my mates compensated for what’s happened to them, and I’d like an apology for how we were treated.’